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Egypt: Information on the Islamic Fundamentalist group al-Gama'a al-Islamiya

Publisher United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services
Author Resource Information Center
Publication Date 25 August 1998
Citation / Document Symbol
Cite as United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Egypt: Information on the Islamic Fundamentalist group al-Gama'a al-Islamiya, 25 August 1998,, available at: [accessed 20 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Request for information on the Islamic Fundamentalist group, the al-Gama'a al Islamiya, operating out of Egypt.


There are many different spellings for the al-Gama'a al-Islamiya. In acccordance with the most common spelling and to maintain consistency within this response, I will use the spelling al-Gama'a al-Islamiya. The al-Gama'a al-Islamiya is an Islamic opposition group whose aim is to overthrow the government of President Hosni Mubarak. The al-Gama'a al-Islamiya is not a single group; it has become factionalized. The original group has broken down into smaller factions, in part due to the imprisonment and/or exile of its leaders (ABC Nightline 3 Dec. 1997). Currently, the spiritual leader of the al-Gama'a al-Islamiya, a blind sheik named Abdel-Rahman, is serving a life sentence in the U.S. for plotting to blow up the World Trade Center and other New York landmarks (The Scotsman 18 Nov. 1997).

Overall, the al-Gama'a al-Islamiya avoids conflicts with Americans, as its leaders feel they would be fighting a powerful adversary that they cannot match. Rather the group focuses on fighting its enemies within Egypt, mainly the government (Mideast Mirror 10 Aug. 1998). The al-Gama'a al-Islamiya began fighting the state in 1992 when Egyptian volunteers who fought the Islamic mujahedeen in Afghanistan returned (AI Mar. 1997).

Conflicts with armed Islamic groups in Egypt since 1992 have claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people on both sides, and have been blamed for many human rights abuses (AI Mar. 1997). The al-Gama'a al-Islamiya has been associated with the following attacks:

  • November 18, 1997: 71 tourists were killed by Islamic militants outside the Temple of Hatsheut, which is across the Nile form the town of Luxor and near the Valley of the Kings (The Scotsman 18 Nov. 1997).
  • September 18, 1997: 2 gunmen (believed to be members of al-Gama'a al-Islamiya) killed 9 tourists and injured 35 others on a crowded tourist bus in Cairo (The Evening Standard 18 Sept.1997).
  • April 18, 1996: 4 armed men killed 18 Greek tourists including 14 women outside a hotel in Cairo, while 15 others were injured including nine women and an Egyptian man. The al-Gama'a al-Islamiya claimed responsibility for this attack saying they had mistaken the Greek tourists for Israeli nationals and attacked in retaliation for the Israeli attacks in Southern Lebanon (AI July 1996).
  • February 24, 1996: 8 people were killed, including 6 Coptic Christians, when 2 armed men (allegedly members of the al-Gama'a al-Islamiya) opened fire on civilians sitting outside their house in al-'Uthmaniya village near al-Badari in the governate of Asyut (AI July 1996).
  • February 20, 1996: 2 Coptic Christians brothers were killed when 3 gunmen (believed to be members of the al-Gama'a al-Islamiya) attacked house in the village of Sahel Salim (AI July 1996).
  • February 19, 1996: On the eve of 'Id al-Fitr, 3 gunmen believed to be members of al-Gama'a al-Islamiya, shot and killed 5 civilians in a coffee shop in the village of al-'Aqal al-Bahri (AI July 1996).
  • January - April 1996: at least 46 civilians throughout Egypt were killed by members of armed opposition groups (AI July 1996).

According to the 1997 Amnesty International report, "...the al-Gama'a al-Islamiya has been charged with plotting to overthrow the regime, threatening peace and national unity through the use of violence, and illegally importing weapons and ammunition into the country..." amongst other things (AI 1997). In July 1997, six imprisoned leaders of the al-Gama'a al-Islamiya called for a cease fire followed by talks with authorities. However, an unyielding leader of al-Gama'a al-Islamiya, Rifai Ahmed Taha who is based in Afghanistan, denied any offer of a cease fire (AP 10 Feb. 1998).

The al-Gama'a al-Islamiya, Gihad, and Talai'al-Fatah have been responsible for serious human rights abuses and have carried out attacks on the Coptic minority, foreign tourists, and opposition writer Farag Foda (AI March 1997). Experts say that Osama Bin Laden may have subcontracted the al-Gama'a'-Islamiya to bomb the embassies in Africa (The New York Post 8 Aug 1998).

This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the RIC within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Mideast Mirror. 10 August 1998. "Are the Twin American Embassy Bombings Portents of More to Come?" (NEXIS)

The New York Post. 8 August 1998. "Millionaire ‘Caveman' High on List of Suspects." (NEXIS)

USA Today. 17 March 1998. "Egypt Launches Armed Attacks on Lost Tourism." (NEXIS)

Associated Press (AP). 10 February 1998. "Egyptian Government Reiterates No Talks With Islamic Extremists." (NEXIS)

Agence France Presse (AFP). 5 January 1998. "Sudanese Opposition Warns Cairo Against Improving Ties With Khartoum." (NEXIS)

Terror On The Nile - Anatomy of a Massacre. 3 December 1997. Narr. Ted Koppel. ABC Nightline. (NEXIS)

The Scotsman. 18 November 1997. "71 Die As Islamic Militants Slaughter Egypt's Tourists." (NEXIS)

The Evening Standard. 18 September 1997. "Bombers Kill Nine Tourists." (NEXIS)

Deutsche Press-Agentur (DPA). 3 July 1997. "Massive Build Up of Egyptian Troops on Border, Sudanese Paper Says." (NEXIS)

Amnesty International. March 1997. Egypt: Women Targeted By Association. (AI Index: MDE 12/11/97). London.

Amnesty International. 1997. Amnesty International Report 1997. London.

Amnesty International. July 1996. Indefinite Detention and Systematic Torture: The Forgotten Victims. (AI Index: MDE 12/13/96). London.

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